International Business Festival 2018: What’s in it for North West firms?
Liverpool is preparing to welcome global delegations and high profile business leaders to its third International Business Festival. Before Exhibition Centre Liverpool is transformed into a hub for networking, knowledge sharing and negotiating from 12-28 June, festival chairman Max Steinberg CBE tells Move Commercial what’s in it for North West firms.
Interview by Natasha Young
How has the International Business Festival changed and progressed for 2018?
Max Steinberg: The 2014 and 2016 festivals facilitated more than half a billion pounds in additional trade and investment for the UK. It’s been a very strong start but we want to go further.
The most important area of change and progress for 2018 is the sector-specific focus of our programme. Each of the festival’s nine days will feature a different high-growth industry exploring the opportunities and challenges for business.
The North West is a recognised global centre of excellence for all the sectors, from health and life sciences to sustainable energy to creative industries.
The idea is that, as well as providing companies with the space and support they need, the festival can also act as a platform for the region to show off its assets to a global audience.
What are your aims and expectations for this year’s festival when it comes to visitor numbers and its economic boost for the region?
MS: The 2016 International Business Festival injected around £3 million into the Liverpool City Region visitor economy but the impact goes much further. Thousands of jobs and tens of millions of pounds of new business for regional companies all delivered since our launch in 2014.
We’re expecting around 27,000 visits over the three weeks across the main festival and the third-party conferences we’re hosting, including the World Forum for Foreign Direct Investment and major global women’s entrepreneurialism expo SheTrades.
This magic combination of global industry professionals and UK business leaders coming together at the festival produces the results for which we’re known. The potential really is enormous.
Is the fact that this year’s festival coincides with the Liverpool 2018 celebrations expected to have any impact?
MS: We’ve been working closely with our colleagues across the city to make sure the festival is an integral part of this year’s celebrations. Being named 2008 European Capital of Culture was a huge catalyst for Liverpool’s resurgence and regeneration, and it’s one of the reasons we’re in the position to host a major international event like the International Business Festival.
We might not seem, at first glance, like an obvious fit for a cultural calendar but we’re not your standard business conference.
Our creative lead – former Southbank Centre artistic director Jude Kelly – has dubbed us the ‘Glastonbury for business’, and designer Wayne Hemingway has been tasked with giving our festival floor an attractive, engaging look and feel.
One of Liverpool 2018’s summer campaigns will focus on the Future World of Work and our keynotes for each day have been programmed on this theme, with industry-leading headline speakers like ARM Holdings CEO Simon Segars presenting their vision of work and business in an age of rapid technological change.
Who do you consider the International Business Festival to be for?
MS: The primary audience is business leaders from small and medium sized firms who are looking to make connections and access the expertise they need to grow their business – whether that’s about unlocking funding or exploring new global markets.
Really though, the festival is for anyone interested in the future of business.
There’s practical advice and guidance but also thought-provoking presentations by high-profile speakers like CBI director general Carolyn Fairbairn, Cherie Blair or Lord Karan Bilimoria. You’ll also be able to see and interact with the best cutting edge British technology in the UK Innovation Hub.
The festival attracts delegates from around the world, but why should North West business people attend?
MS: Precisely for this reason. The world will be in Liverpool for three weeks in June, and North West companies need to take advantage.
My team and I have been travelling internationally, signing up delegations to attend this festival for more than a year now. The appetite from overseas firms to connect and trade with companies in the region is huge.
Merseyside, Cheshire and Greater Manchester businesses will find their next global buyer, supplier or investor at the festival.
How would you advise businesses of any size to get the most out of the festival?
MS: One chief executive of a Cheshire-based firm recently told me they thought of the festival as a ‘one-stop shop’ for business, and that’s absolutely right.
When you register to attend, you create a profile in our ‘Festival Connect’ online system allowing you to connect with other delegates and fill their diary with appointments, meetings and presentations.
You’ll be able to make connections and receive expert advice it might otherwise take you months or years to access.